Brussels, 24 March 2010
State aid: Commission approves €16 million Austrian support to environmental-friendly project by Verbund-Austrian Thermal Power
The European Commission has authorised Austria to grant €16 million towards an energy-saving project run by Verbund-Austrian Thermal Power GmbH & Co. KG (a subsidiary of the Verbund group) for the combined production of electricity and heat. The aid is in line with the European Union's guidelines on State aid for environmental objectives (see IP/08/80). In particular, the combined production of electricity and heat is an innovative process that leads to significant primary energy savings compared to the separate production of heat and electricity. At the same time, it results in a reduction of greenhouse gases.
Vice-President for Competition Joaquin Almunia said: "The Austrian support measure will contribute to environmental protection and to reduce the EU's dependency on primary energy imports, both key EU objectives, without unduly distorting competition".
Co-generation of electricity and heat is an important part of the Commission's Action Plan on energy efficiency and its promotion is one of the short-term priority areas to reduce emissions. The newly-built combined heat and power plant, located in Mellach, near Graz, will achieve substantial savings of primary energy since electricity and heat will be produced from the same production cycle (cogeneration), instead of being produced separately from two distinct installations.
The Commission's examination found that the aid was a necessary incentive to develop the project and that the positive environmental effects would outbalance the potentially negative effects on competition. The latter are in any case limited as the aid amount accounts for a minor share of the beneficiary's production costs.
The Commission assessed the measure under its Guidelines on State aid for environmental protection (see IP/08/80), that allow state support for environmental objectives, if, on balance, the environmental benefits of such support outweigh the potential distortions of competition brought about by the aid.
The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number N 295/2008 in the State Aid Register on the DG Competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of state aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the State Aid Weekly e-News.
Today the Commission cleared another environmental aid towards GDF SUEZ towards the development of a project that would ultimately make commercially-viable car fuel out of biomass (see IP/10/349). In total, according to the latest information available, the Commission approved in 2008 a total of €12.7 billion in State aid that contributed towards the key objectives of saving energy, promoting renewables and reducing CO2 emissions among others.